Published by hockeybuzz.com, 3-24-2017
Pittsburgh forward Jake Guentzel was skating through the neutral zone in Buffalo with his head down ready to accept a pass from teammate, Sidney Crosby. Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen saw the play unfolding and was lining up Guentzel for what looked to be a hip check. Crosby's pass was tipped by Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons and a split second later Ristolainen was laying his back into Guentzel.
Guentzel was rocked and was bleeding after his visor and helmet slammed into Ristolainen's shoulder blade area and left the ice woozy. He reportedly has a concussion. Ristolainen was given a five minute interference penalty and a game misconduct.
The only thing keeping this play from becoming a highlight reel, hard-nosed body check was the absence of the puck. Had it gotten through to Guentzel it would have made news from Tampa to Edmonton. However, the biscuit never came and the NHL's Department of Player Safety ruled that Ristolainen had the time to alter his course were he skating forward instead of backwards.
I get it. But missing in all of this was malicious intent on the part of Ristolainen nor was he targeting the Guentzel's head as the size difference had more to do with it than anything else. Ristolainen is 6'4" 203 lbs. while Guentzel is 5'11" 180. Nor do I see a history of suspensions or even calls from the DoPS.
This is the second time this season that Guentzel didn't keep his head up while skating into dangerous areas. The first time involved Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning who delivered a vicious check to Guentzel as he was leaving the zone. The DoPS said that Manning made "significant and forceful contact with the head of Guentzel" long after Guentzel had the puck.
In layman's terms, or in this blogger's eyes, Manning was head-hunting, while Ristolainen was finishing a check he just couldnt' get out of. It should also be noted that Manning didn't even receive a penalty on the play and when you consider that Ristolainen played only a few minutes, he'll be lost for what constitutes nearly four games for something that was even close to what Manning did.
You be the judge. Here are the two videos via Sportsnet Canada.
Manning on Guentzel:
Ristolainen on Guentzel:
The Department of Player Safety's three game suspension of Ristolainen is crap when you consider that a head-hunting Manning only got two games.
Buffalo should have appealed the suspension, even if it never flew, to show just how poorly the NHL handled this matter.
And Guentzel needs to learn how to keep his head up or he'll have a very short career....or worse.